# Cheapest way to produce a one off PCB

B

#### Bob

Jan 1, 1970
0
I have designed a PCB and printed it off on my inkjet.

I have no pcb equipment (etch tank/light box etc) so what would be the
cheapest way to get this from paper to board?

Are there any simple kits or methods that would work?

C

#### CFoley1064

Jan 1, 1970
0
Subject: Cheapest way to produce a one off PCB
From: "Bob" [email protected]
Date: 4/6/2004 1:22 PM Central Standard Time
Message-id: <[email protected]>

I have designed a PCB and printed it off on my inkjet.

I have no pcb equipment (etch tank/light box etc) so what would be the
cheapest way to get this from paper to board?

Are there any simple kits or methods that would work?

If this is a "one-off", by far the cheapest way to do this would be to go with
Express PCB or one of the other board shops that specialize in limited quantity
single/double-sided boards. You'll get a professional job the first time, and
will be able to get finer detail than you would get with a
do-it-yourself-poorly etching setup, especially one which has been optimized
for cost. There's a significant learning curve with this process, and there
are also hidden costs in disposal of etchant (the solution with etched copper
shouldn't be chucked down the drain -- you obviously _can_ dump it, but you're
just making cleanup somebody else's problem, so don't).

If you insist on doing it yourself (if nothing else, to get it out of your
system), look at Don Lancaster's tinaja.com site for a Blatant Opportunist
article on the direct toner method of transferring artwork to PC boards.

http://tinaja.com/glib/dirtoner.pdf

All the information in the article is valid, even if several of the companies
mentioned are no longer in business. There are also several outfits that sell
iron-on transfer kits. If you go with one of these, make sure you apply heat
instructions.

As for etching, you might as well go with ferric chloride etchant. There are
several inexpensive setups available from GC Electronics which can get you
started. Remember that, if you want to heat the etchant, use good ventialtion.
I once used the GC Cat. No. 22-0394-0000 "Professional PC Board Power Etching
panel, making the board cost only $2.60 per. And that was all cut apart, too...I'd hate to breathe all the fiberglass dust generated if I cut it myself. This really is the future of hobbyist circuits...so many components now are surface mount, you pretty much have to make a board every other project. We should support and encourage board houses until the processes get so streamlined that you'd never think of making your own board. Imagine how great it would be to get custom multilayer boards at these prices. How about combining that with partial assembly...have them solder on those BGA devices for you. Imagine if full assembly services became cheap enough for hobbyists. The hard fact is that electronics is getting tougher to do without specialized equipment. Instead of complaining and wishing for wire-wrap, just evolve the hobby itself and move up one level. Design the subassemblies, have them made, then put them together. It's just as hands-on, but you have more time to do more complex things. Don't fight progress, grow with it. Of course for the really simple circuits, I always keep a bunch of solder boards and through-hole components around. T #### Tim Auton Jan 1, 1970 0 Garrett Mace said: Olimex and other board houses will do an excellent job.... but the original poster was looking for a very cheap way to do the board. [snip] He doesn't have any tools, materials, or chemicals. It is not possible to assemble everything needed to etch a single PCB, for less than the cost of ordering a board from Olimex. Yes it is. Assuming you have some normal household tools (a hacksaw, a drill and a plastic container), the bare minimum is a pen, some etchant, a board and perhaps a new drill bit. That lot can be had for less than$34. Heated bubble tanks, drill presses, guillotines, laser
printers, light boxes, tinning chemicals and the rest all make the
process easier and make for a (far) better result but they are not
absolutely necessary to make something that works.

A professionally produced PCB is of course much nicer and is certainly
worth the money, but you can do several small boards at home with the
minimum of equipment and supplies for less. Is it the best way? No. Is
it the answer to the question "what's the cheapest way to produce a
PCB"? Yes.

Tim

B

#### Bob Masta

Jan 1, 1970
0
I have designed a PCB and printed it off on my inkjet.

I have no pcb equipment (etch tank/light box etc) so what would be the
cheapest way to get this from paper to board?

Are there any simple kits or methods that would work?

I have a tutorial with lots of practical tips on
how to make hand-drawn boards using a
Sharpie felt-tip marker and ferric chloride
etchant. This method has been honed over
a couple of decades by myself and the guys
I used to work with. Check it out at
www.daqarta.com/lptxh.htm

Hope this helps!

Bob Masta

D A Q A R T A
Data AcQuisition And Real-Time Analysis
www.daqarta.com

J

#### John Popelish

Jan 1, 1970
0
Bob said:
I have a tutorial with lots of practical tips on
how to make hand-drawn boards using a
Sharpie felt-tip marker and ferric chloride
etchant. This method has been honed over
a couple of decades by myself and the guys
I used to work with. Check it out at
www.daqarta.com/lptxh.htm
If I read your web page right, you recommend drilling before drawing.
I tried this, and find the holes hard to write over with the Sharpie
pen. And if you don't get the ink in the holes, the holes etch larger
than the board holes and soldering is difficult. If you get the
inside of the holes resist covered, it is hard to get them clean, and
soldering is difficult.

I found it easier to clean the board, center punch (A spring loaded
automatic punch does a very consistent job), draw, etch and then
drill. This makes sure the copper hole is the same diameter as the
board hole, and it is completely clear of resist inside the hole, and
cleaning up the burrs is just part of the resist removal.

J

#### JeffM

Jan 1, 1970
0
[if] you have some normal household tools
(a hacksaw, a drill and a plastic container), the bare minimum is
a pen, some etchant, a board and perhaps a new drill bit.
Tim Auton

Add a pin vise and a pyrex disk and I agree.

Otherwise, it might be worth mentioning that
(as compared to any previous work you've done on boards built by pros).
This alone might make sending it to a pro an attractive alternative.
If not, at the least, inspect your soldering work carefully.

Folks keep saying "ferric chloride".
If you like looking thru mud to see what you're doing--OK.
Otherwise, Ammonium Persulfate or Sodium Persulphate if you can get them.

T

#### Temporary [email protected]&ER

Jan 1, 1970
0
If I read your web page right, you recommend drilling before drawing.
I tried this, and find the holes hard to write over with the Sharpie
pen. And if you don't get the ink in the holes, the holes etch larger
than the board holes and soldering is difficult. If you get the
inside of the holes resist covered, it is hard to get them clean, and
soldering is difficult.

I found it easier to clean the board, center punch (A spring loaded
automatic punch does a very consistent job), draw, etch and then
drill. This makes sure the copper hole is the same diameter as the
board hole, and it is completely clear of resist inside the hole, and
cleaning up the burrs is just part of the resist removal.

Would it be easier to centerpunch, then use the stick on holes to get
a consistent pattern/diameter? Then drill after etching.

I used to use carbon paper and a dull pencil, then cut the pattern
out with an xacto knive, spray paint the traces, and go etching.
Obviously the outcome was iffy at best, but worked for what I needed.

Use the usual techniques to reply via email.

Molon Labe!

B

#### Bob Masta

Jan 1, 1970
0
If I read your web page right, you recommend drilling before drawing.
I tried this, and find the holes hard to write over with the Sharpie
pen. And if you don't get the ink in the holes, the holes etch larger
than the board holes and soldering is difficult. If you get the
inside of the holes resist covered, it is hard to get them clean, and
soldering is difficult.

I found it easier to clean the board, center punch (A spring loaded
automatic punch does a very consistent job), draw, etch and then
drill. This makes sure the copper hole is the same diameter as the
board hole, and it is completely clear of resist inside the hole, and
cleaning up the burrs is just part of the resist removal.

If you drill from the top side (on a single-sided board)
then the burrs are fairly easy to remove with wet-or-dry
sandpaper and water, as part of the surface prep before
drawing. When I've tried center-punching the metal side,
it typically makes a little crater: the indent is fine, but there
is a smooth ridge of raised copper surrounding it. This is
much harder to remove by sanding. If you don't remove it,
it makes it hard to draw a neat pad... the ridge deflects the
felt-tip. We made boards that way for a while (using the
spring-loaded punch) and just cursed a lot, until somebody
hit upon the idea of drilling from the top. We never went back.

But you do have to do a good sanding job, not only to avoid
the etch problems you mention, but to avoid having a burr
catch the felt tip. So it's a little more work than just prepping
a smooth board, but seems easier overall. YMMV ;-)

Bob Masta

D A Q A R T A
Data AcQuisition And Real-Time Analysis
www.daqarta.com

J

#### John Popelish

Jan 1, 1970
0
Bob said:
If you drill from the top side (on a single-sided board)
then the burrs are fairly easy to remove with wet-or-dry
sandpaper and water, as part of the surface prep before
drawing. When I've tried center-punching the metal side,
it typically makes a little crater: the indent is fine, but there
is a smooth ridge of raised copper surrounding it. This is
much harder to remove by sanding. If you don't remove it,
it makes it hard to draw a neat pad... the ridge deflects the
felt-tip. We made boards that way for a while (using the
spring-loaded punch) and just cursed a lot, until somebody
hit upon the idea of drilling from the top. We never went back.

But you do have to do a good sanding job, not only to avoid
the etch problems you mention, but to avoid having a burr
catch the felt tip. So it's a little more work than just prepping
a smooth board, but seems easier overall. YMMV ;-)

My guess is that you used the center punch set to a much higher impact
than I do. Is yours adjustable? Mine makes a just barely visible
mark, so that my pads are accurately located. Those small drills need
very little dimple to center accurately.

B

#### Bill Jenkins

Jan 1, 1970
0
For $0.50/sq" s/s or$0.75/sq" for d/s with plated thru holes and a
small film charge I can produce pcb's for you.
Boards are FR4 with bright tin/lead finish and are sheared. If you can
email gerber photoplot files, I can start right away.

Bill Jenkins

B

#### Bob Masta

Jan 1, 1970
0
My guess is that you used the center punch set to a much higher impact
than I do. Is yours adjustable? Mine makes a just barely visible
mark, so that my pads are accurately located. Those small drills need
very little dimple to center accurately.

John, you are probably right about the high impact force.
That was over 15 years ago, and I don't know what the
guys in that shop are using now. I never liked that punch;
maybe that was why. I prefer to use a sharp tool (scratch
awl) and tap gently with a carefully selected stick. (I have
a favorite that's perfectly balanced. ;-) The awl has a long
slender tip that makes it easier to see the work, whereas
the auto-punch had a fat squatty barrel. I may give
your method a try again on my next board; but after so many
years it may be tough to retrain myself!

The other advantage of the top-drill method is that you
can work from a single top-view layout and punch through
it onto the top of the board. I often make simple little
boards by drawing the layout on graph paper, and this
way I don't need any fancy see-through mylar film.
(Of course, I do need to get a back-side view when I'm
inking, and I use a light box for that.)

One more note: You mention small drills. I haven't used
a small drill on a circuit board in nearly 30 years. A ball-tip
carbide dental bur will *never* break from a side load, whereas
the standard carbide drills will snap if you look at them funny.
I use dental burs in a Dremel, and you can use the same
tip to carve slots and cut traces. In all those years, the
only ones that have needed replacement were those where
the shank bent when the Dremel fell off the bench and landed
on the business end. I now have a metal cap I slip over the
tool when I set it on the bench. End of problem. And these
burs were pretty cheap, too, from the local dental supply house.
Since I haven't needed to visit them in 20 years, I don't know
any current prices, but the originals were about the same as
single carbide drill bits, a couple of bucks back then.

And, true, they don't need much of a dimple to center. You can
zip along at about 1-2 seconds per hole. The only drawback is
that the taper leading up to the ball tip means you can't do stacks
of boards for production.

</evangelizing>

Bob Masta

D A Q A R T A
Data AcQuisition And Real-Time Analysis
www.daqarta.com

J

#### Jeffrey C. Dege

Jan 1, 1970
0
I have a tutorial with lots of practical tips on
how to make hand-drawn boards using a
Sharpie felt-tip marker and ferric chloride
etchant. This method has been honed over
a couple of decades by myself and the guys
I used to work with. Check it out at
www.daqarta.com/lptxh.htm

One comment -

Sharpies permanent ink will dissolve in isopropyl alcohol - which might
be an easier way of cleaning up than using a scrubbing pad.

Also, the Staedtler brand of Lumocolor pens (high quality marking pens,
designed for overhead transparencies) include an erasing pen, that can
be used to apply the alcohol in a controlled manner, and may be useful
for correcting drawing errors.

--
It is almost always incorrect to begin the decomposition of a system
into modules on the basis of a flowchart. We propose instead that one
begins with a list of difficult design decisions or design decisions
which are likely to change. Each module is then designed to hide such
a decision from the others.
-- David Parnas

Replies
13
Views
1K
Replies
9
Views
992
Replies
11
Views
3K
Replies
88
Views
7K
Replies
40
Views
13K